It’s much safer to hitchike these days
Jules and Mel just arrived at the airport after having spent a holiday abroad. It’s late at night and they’re in need of a ride home. Unfortunately, the two girls pick out the one shuttle bus they shouldn’t have, as their friendly driver will take them on a trip leading them anywhere but home…
What we have here, is a pleasant surprise. Plain and simple. And above all, we have Edward Anderson, a young writer/director who shows us great promise. Not only with this directorial debut, but also as a writer: His first credit as a writer turns out to be the script he delivered for Flawless (2007), a pretty clever crime/drama starring none less than Michael Caine and Demi Moore. But that’s a different story.
Mel (Peyton List) and Jules (Cameron Goodman) are not the only ones who end up on the shuttle. Jules favores two boys they just met at the airport, and through a coincidence, she manages to get them aboard the shuttle too. A husband, eager to get to his wife and baby at home, is the fourth passenger. It doesn’t take very long for them to discover that our friendly driver (Tony Curran) is actually a lot less friendly than they expected. As soon as it’s clear that he is not taking them home, things go from bad to worse for the passengers. Violent outbursts occur, he makes detours, has strange demands for the victims and soon the real questions start to rise: What does he have in store for them and where is this all going to lead to?
Whenever in a movie people get abducted, there will always be points in the plot where they have chances to escape. It’s no different with Shuttle. While most of these situations are handled well in the script, there are still a couple of moments where you will go thinking “Why didn’t they kill the driver when they had the chance?”. And honestly, those are the most annoying moments a viewer can experience during a film. You’ll just have to endure those brief moments of aggravation, as any given plot always calls for the antagonist to at least make it until the end of the movie. Same with those scenes where you regret certain decisions the characters make. But when this happens, at least your thinking on your feet, together with the characters. And that’s always better than a movie that has you staring at the screen with an apathetic gaze.
So yes, Shuttle is tenseful and really gets to you, but only progressively. At the beginning of the film, things didn’t look too promising. There’s a bit of inappropriate music on the soundtrack and it seems like we’re being introduced to stereotypical characters. But after a while, it gets better as the situation grows worse for the abductees. Violence increases and the plot, even with the little means it has, does thicken. It’s a dark story that looks and feels realistic. Partly because of the way it was shot (most of the night scenes were filmed with a HD camera) and subsequently because of the cast delivering decent performances. Out of the two girls, it was especially Peyton List who was most convincing and luckily Tony Curran didn’t overact things. Good call, as the most menacing aspect of his character is that you have no clue about what his motivations are.
Shuttle doesn’t look too fancy. But since we’re talking indie-budgets here, it would be highly unfair to compare the cinematography to those of mainstream thrillers. Most night scenes are also devoided of all too bright color schemes, and this suits the picture perfectly. The make-up effects get pretty bloody at times, but they’re not the movie’s main focus. There are scenes which feature bashed-in faces and severed fingers that might appeal to torture horror fans, but I was pleased to see the film never falls into that category and has a completely different story to tell.
Shuttle handles a fairly simple narrative structure, incorporating basic elements of thriller, drama, mystery and horror, all leading up to a solid and very bleak conclusion. Once you’ve seen the complete film, it’s also pretty obvious that the conclusion was probably the first thing Anderson had in mind, and then worked his way back, constructing a plot leading up to it. It’s not really the twists that make Shuttle good or original (although they are quite effective and you might not see all of them coming), but it’s really the way the film ends that makes it rise above similar genre efforts.
If you’ve seen and enjoyed recent films like P2 (2007) and Blackout (2007), then you might want to pick up Shuttle and give it a try. Chances are you won’t be disappointed.